Tuesday, January 26, 2010

KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS

B-movie gods be praised! Shout! Factory has just released the 1977 "nature gone wild" thriller, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS, in a long overdue, widescreen special edition!

The great William Shatner (STAR TREK) stars as "Rank" Hansen, a stetson-wearing, horse riding, lady lassoing Arizona veterinarian who is called in by a local rancher (Woody Strode) to investigate the deaths of some cattle. When he discovers that the livestock has died from the venom of thousands of tarantulas, he calls in an attractive entomologist (Tiffany Bolling, BONNIE'S KIDS) to help. Unfortunately, there's no way to stop the hairy little creepy-crawlies, and it's all our protagonists can do just to survive the arachnid onslaught.

Filmed on location with an estimated ten thousand live tarantulas, KINGDOM is a genuine Seventies drive-in classic that benefits greatly from a talented and game cast of skilled character actors, picturesque desert scenery, smart, efficient direction by John "Bud" Cardos, and a taut, JAWS-inspired script by Richard Robinson and Alan Caillou.

Previously released nearly a decade ago on DVD by GoodTimes Video with a barely adequate, unmatted, full-frame transfer, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS has now been given a high quality presentation on digital disc by Shout! Factory. To begin with, the movie is now presented in anamorphic widescreen, properly matted to the filmmaker's intended 1.85:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The new transfer is culled from source material that's in surprisingly good shape, with solid contrast, color balance and detail and only minimal specks and debris.

Unlike the old, bare-bones GoodTimes disc, Shout! has compiled a solid batch of supplemental features for their edition, beginning with an exhaustive audio commentary by director Cardos, producer Igo Kantor, spider wrangler Jim Brockett and cinematographer John Morrill, moderated by Lee Christian and Scott Spiegel. There are also new video interviews with star Shatner, spider wrangler Brockett and co-writer Robinson. Additionally, there's some fascinating behind-the-scenes home movie footage, a poster gallery and the original theatrical trailer.

I'm a big fan of this movie - nowadays, this flick would be made for cable with a cast of generic looking, twenty-something actors and a bunch of CGI cartoon arachnids, instead of KINGDOM's adult cast and real spiders, and it wouldn't be nearly as much fun. If you're a fan of the 70's eco-thriller genre, Bill Shatner, or vintage B-movie chills, you'll want to check this new disc out. And, if you own the old DVD, an update is strongly recommended.

BUY: Kingdom Of The Spiders [Special Edition]